For a Steve Jobs Keynote, the kick-off to last week’s Worldwide Developer Conference was surprisingly, well, surprise-free. Apple rumor-mongers nailed the specs on the iPhone 3G, the pricing, the slipping ship date, and even the launch of Mobile Me, a major redesign of Apple’s .Mac service that focuses on Push technology for the rest of us. For subscribers of Mobile Me, all you have to do is make a change to your calendar on one platform, whether Mac, PC or iPhone, and the change instantly occurs on your other machines. Apple was going to become the Push company.
Phil Schiller demoed the applications involved, from photos to e-mail to address book for almost a half-hour, repeating the phrase “desktop-quality applications” roughly 900 times. As promised, the apps instantly updated across platforms. The Push technology really works, as well as, or, Apple hopes, even better than Microsoft Exchange for corporations. In every respect, it looked like a winning platform. For $99, anyone can have world-leading syncing of their entire digital lives. There’s just one problem: you have to use Apple’s Web applications to do that. No GMail, no Flickr, no GCal, no Facebook. Rather than delivering on the promise of automating the process of keeping every aspect of your life up to date, Apple requires you to leave behind your existing digital life to build a new one. Unless you’re an existing .Mac user, you need a new e-mail address, a new online photo gallery, a new calendar, a new form of online storage. And I, like a lot of people, am not going to make that change. I love Google Apps, Flickr, and Facebook. They’re where I keep my stuff. And that isn’t going to change any time soon. Rather than Mobile Me, Apple seems to have created Mobile Steve. To see the implications of this decision, click through.